The Nationals are 16-and-9 since Bryce Harper got injured on that rainy day back on August 12th. That’s an impressive .640 winning percentage — but don’t let that fool you for a second that the Nats are guaranteed to keep winning at that pace against the elite teams in the post-season without Harper unless the current outfield steps it up offensively and defensively. Yes, it was encouraging that the Nationals beat the Astros in 2-of-3 games last month to show it is possible to beat a very good team without Harper.
The sum of all fears is what we wrote about leading up to the trade deadline was that it might be prudent to get a “rental” player like Zack Cozart just to have one more elite-level player to expand the roster just in case you needed to shift Trea Turner to centerfield in case of something unforeseen. Since then, the unforeseen happened. The only external move would be to dig back into the Nats’ own Minor Leagues for the only one close enough to be the next impact player like Bryce but even time is running short on that that.
Almost within a few weeks the replacement starting outfield of Brian Goodwin and Michael Taylor plus superstar Bryce Harper all got injured. Two of the three of those young outfielders are still on the disabled list. Like last year after the trade deadline, injuries happen. Wilson Ramos was lost for the season and his replacements were a combined 3-for-19 in the post-season.
Last post-season, Michael Taylor batted .000 both by strikeouts, and Wilmer Difo was .000. Combined sample sizes were miniscule, but bench players don’t get many opportunities, and if you blow it, there may not be another opportunity as in the case of Wilmer Difo who was the last batter for the Nationals in the 2016 post-season.
In the 2016 post-season, it was the veteran players who stepped up mostly. The ones who had seen the post-season before generally have the advantage. Every once in a while a kid will get the job done as we saw with Trea Turner who batted .318 and scored a team-best 5 runs. Runs are at a premium in post-season baseball. Could it be time for Victor Robles who could be the newbie spark plug? Most say no way, have faith in Mike Rizzo.
Since Harper’s injury, last night’s outfield has been struggling collectively as you will see in the diagram below. They need to step it up and probably will as Jayson Werth won’t continue to bat .115. Again, sample sizes are small but this outfield must improve their production offensively and defensively.
On Bryce Harper, Mike Rizzo has been optimistic since the day he got the best possible news that the injury was not going to be season-ending in Rizzo’s opinion.
“We’re very optimistic that [Bryce will] play in the postseason,” Rizzo said last week on 106.7 The Fan radio.
“He’s moving around. He’s starting to play long toss on the field,” Rizzo updated The Sports Junkies radio show today. “He’s starting to do some Alter-G treadmill work. So he’s moving around, he’s progressing. We’re being cautious and careful, but he’s moving in the right direction.”
The Alter-G treadmill (h/t to Ray Wyvill) is a sophisticated piece of machinery used for athletes who cannot put full body weight on their legs, and the machines can cost in excess of $75,000 and use some space age technology.
“Yeah,” Rizzo said when asked if Harper has begun jogging. “This Alter-G, as they call it, is an anti-gravity treadmill where you can reduce a percentage of your weight on the treadmill.”
“So [Bryce is] starting to progress with that and, like I said last time, he’s moving around effortlessly,” Rizzo said. “No limp in his gait. We just haven’t pushed him to the point where he’s running yet or those type of things.
“But he was on the field playing long toss, which was a step in the right direction. He walked some stairs of the stadium the other day, which was a step in the right direction.”
“Looks like [Bryce is] doing what he needs to do to get back on the field with enough time to play some baseball games to get ready for postseason,” Rizzo gave that last bit of information in his interview.
That seems like some encouraging news and is exactly what we were told in our sourced report yesterday afternoon that Bryce Harper would being jogging to some degree.
In the meantime, it might be a good idea to get Wilmer Difo more playing time in the outfield in meaningless games — just in case. We will continue to keep hope alive that a healthy and productive Brian Goodwin and Bryce Harper return to the Nationals soon.